Recently, one of our travelers, Carol, shared this heartwarming personal account of an experience she had in South Africa. Memories like this stay with us forever and illustrate the transformative impact that traveling the world can have on each and every one of us. Here at Friendly Planet we are humbled to play a small role Carol’s experience!
My Dad was an animal lover. He was a banker in real life, but his true passion was animals and making things. He trained homing pigeons during the Second World War. He milked rattlesnakes for their venom to make vaccines. He raised parakeets, nursed and brought back to life numerous wild creatures over the years. He was always coming home with some critters that he found like the tiny barred owl that fell out of its nest, a beautiful greyhound dog named Tala that was abandoned after the dog races were over, and an injured and very anxious seagull that was hit by a car–left on the side of the road. Then there was the good-sized painted turtle he found walking across the road while on a trip in Williamsburg, Virginia. There was just a never-ending parade of animals always seeming to be processing through our home. My Mother supported all of this animal love, which was pretty amazing considering she was a nurse and liked everything clean and tidy.
My brother and I grew up with turtles, dogs, owls, birds and lots and lots of snakes. My first pet was a snake named Brownie. We had a bunch of cages in our basement that Dad made out of wood. They were amazing. He had me paint the backgrounds of each cage to look like the natural environment that the snake would live in the wild. Each cage had a large glass front so you could see each variety of each snake we had on display. He had everything from garter snakes to milk snakes to the largest northern water snake in captivity at the time… 43 inches long! But the star of the show was a very large 6.5 ‘ boa constrictor he named Juan Valdez. My brother took Juan to school once for “Show and Tell” and it made the front page of the local papers! On the night of my engagement party to the Captain, the water snake named Sam delivered 41+ babies in her cage. My father enthusiastically invited all the party guests down to behold this miracle of live snake births, as dozens of newborn baby snakes jettisoned out the side of the mother and hit the ground slithering. It was quite a sight!
We grew up with an appreciation for all creatures big and small. He loved watching the bright green praying mantis visiting in the garden; he thought they were spectacular and we thought they were pets. He knew the names of all the trees and animals. He particularly loved birds and especially hawks. He was very knowledgeable after spending many summers at camp in Maine as a young boy. Dad was a very kind and compassionate person and so much fun to be around! He always had an interesting anecdote about some animal and what strange things they could do.
Once on vacation with our family in Nantucket, he drove his British Green Mustang convertible off the paved road and across the open fields at full speed, heading towards the ocean with all of us in the car. He was in pursuit of a red-tailed hawk he had spotted off the side of the road. While in pursuit, he told us all about what the hawk ate and how great their eyesight was and all kinds of information, as my Grandmother held on for dear life in the back seat of the car with my brother and I holding on to her.
My parents loved to travel especially after my Dad retired and they visited most of Europe and many islands in the Caribbean, as well as destinations within the continental United States.
My Dad’s real dream, however, was always to go to Africa. He absolutely loved the idea of a country filled with magnificent animals and interesting flora and fauna, but it was not to be. He told me once that he hoped I would visit Africa for him someday and I assured him that I would.
When they took down the old apple tree in our churchyard, my Dad collected the wooden logs from the tree and brought them to his workshop. He was also a very talented woodworker. There really wasn’t much he couldn’t do. He made boxes and other small items from the apple tree wood, along with a variety of crosses, both small and large, some even inlaid. I still have a couple that he made for me. He then meticulously carved a wooden gavel and sounding block for our church to use during their meetings from this same wood. He was a creator!
I am taking a bit of Dad to Africa with me. I printed out a photo of him and had it laminated. The Captain attached the small wooden cross Dad made from that old apple tree to the laminated photo. We plan to hang this memorial to Dad on a tree in Africa, preferably a baobob tree, since Dad’s name was Bob and he thought that they were such cool trees.
So you see, part of my Dad’s legacy will go to Africa after all. I will carry this remembrance with me on my journey, continuing the circle of love from our little back yard garden in Marblehead to the vast and wild African plains.
A small wooden cross hand-made with love, will travel thousands of miles to the continent of Africa where all of the magnificent creatures live.
Upon returning from her once-in-a-lifetime trip to Africa, Carol shared the following update:
I made this little tribute piece in his memory to take with me to Africa, thinking I could just hang it on a tree somewhere in the bush. I carried a copy of the story with me and shared it with the manager of the Batonka Lodge, where we were staying. I told him how I was hoping to find a baobob tree, or something like it, to hang this memorial tribute on. He explained it wasn’t that easy to do. Not only would I have to worry about wild animals, but people might take it down as well. So after a few days and lots of conversations with this charming man, he suggested to us that perhaps we would like to hang it right there in the lodge, in his private garden! He found the perfect spot on a teak tree with an area on the tree where the bark had peeled back a bit, leaving almost a frame to place the photo of my Dad and the memorial on.
So on our last day at this special place in Zimbabwe, my husband and I, with the general manager, his hammer and 4 small nails, headed out to a grove at the back of the property and hung this tribute to my Dad.
It was so perfect!
Our “Through Your Eyes” series shares tales of travel from the perspective of Friendly Planet Travelers. We know how beautiful the big, wide world is and how exploring new places and experiencing new things can change our lives forever.